Jenny has been looking after people in Australia and the United Kingdom for 13 years, so she knows a thing or two about staying in shape. Jenny talks about the ever-expanding world of naturopathy and shares a few secrets about keeping sickness at bay this winter!
What is naturopathy?
Naturopathy is a holistic approach to health. It's all about looking at the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of a person. Naturopaths treat each patient as an individual and we don't necessarily use a diagnosis focus; rather we look at a patient's diet, exercise, sleep habits and his or her general lifestyle. Naturopaths use different solutions to help people get better, like herbal medicine, nutritional supplements and homeopathic medicines. Counselling can also be involved.
I have an advanced diploma in naturopathy, as well as a diploma in herbal medicine, nutrition, homeopathy and remedial massage. I graduated in 1995 so I've been practising for a while now.
I gained my qualifications through a private college. These days you can still go to a private college to become a naturopath, but you can also go to university.
Very much so. The main ones in Australia are the Australian Traditional Medical Society and the Australian Natural Therapies Association. These bodies set guidelines and codes of conduct for naturopaths, and supply guidelines to colleges and universities on setting their subjects and the calibre of people they enrol. Once a naturopath graduates and begins working, these bodies make sure that they continue to learn throughout their career. The sector is well regulated and naturopaths have to have appropriate insurance, and, depending on where they practise, liability and professional indemnity insurance as well.
I work for myself, and I practise in a few different locations. I do some corporate health work where I go into companies in Sydney and provide naturopathic consultations. Usually I use the company boardroom as a consultation room and patients come to see me for advice. I also offer wellness assessments in the corporate sector, which are 15-minute mini health assessments. I see patients at my practice, called Sydney Wholistic, on the northern beaches, and I also practise from home. I have more flexible hours there so that patients who work full time can make evening appointments to come and see me.
Each consultation differs, of course, but at an initial consultation, I take a thorough case history of the patient, including the individual's, and their family's, medical history. I conduct iridology, which is a diagnostic method using the colour parts of the eye to identify areas of weakness. I also do facial diagnosis, which is looking at a person's tongue and at colours in their face. Inspecting nail health helps pick up any mineral deficiencies and I check blood pressure, do hormone testing and I may also offer blood testing. I also use a machine that conducts an analysis of vitality and longevity by measuring body composition, it tells me how old a person really is on the inside.
I've just returned from the United Kingdom where I was part of a multidisciplinary clinic in Yorkshire. I joined the team as the first ever naturopath and business was just thriving because I was one of only three naturopaths in the north of England. I had patients travelling for miles to see me and, now that I have come back here, I still consult with some of those patients via Skype, telephone or email.
I like the variety of moving around. I wouldn't say the different types of people because all people have the same problems wherever you are! The beauty of it is that I can work in an established practice one day, be in the city in the corporate sector the next, and then I can work from home, where I have time to work on my website and on writing my e-books. It makes me feel that I have a very healthy work life balance and that I manage my time very effectively – being a naturopath, I have to really practise what I preach!
Considering what I learnt when I first graduated and what I know now, there's a vast difference in the way we treat patients. There's more and more research and information coming out all the time. A recent example is fertility management. A recent revelation is that iodine is incredibly important for women's health and fertility. Lots of nutrition companies are getting on the bandwagon and incorporating more potassium iodide into their supplements and that's really helping to improve the health of women who are pregnant or trying to conceive.
There's also lots of amazing research going on with echinacea. Echinacea is a fantastic herb for the immune system. At the moment, research is being carried out on its positive effect on our mood health. Our brains have little mood receptors called cannabinoid receptors and it has been found that echinacea has a positive influence on those receptors, increasing a state of calmness. So the herb is great for people who are studying and are experiencing feelings of anxiety.
For me, it's women's health, which is a very broad subject. That could include conditions such as worsening PMS, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome or menopause. Associated with all those conditions is weight gain, infertility and thyroid problems so they are quite common too.
Some people with chronic conditions may not get better after being treated by a doctor. An example of that is chronic fatigue syndrome – there's not a lot up the doctor's sleeve in treating chronic fatigue, apart from providing blood tests and recommending iron supplements and rest. A naturopath has a lot more to offer someone with chronic fatigue. Another factor is that some patients may be aware of their condition but may not want to go on certain prescription medications; they want to try something natural first. I think that because naturopathy is very holistic we listen to people and take their opinions on board, we listen to the stresses going on in their lives and take that on board, as well as considering their diet and lifestyle. People feel well looked after with a naturopath.
Depending on their condition some people might want to see a naturopath rather than a GP, but I'm in favour of patients seeing both. I think orthodox medicine is amazing and has a lot to offer, and I hope that in the future doctors and naturopaths will work more closely together.
I think the demand for naturopaths has risen over my years in practice. For example, health funds now offer you a refund to see a naturopath, but when I first graduated, that didn't really happen. Also, in Sydney you'll notice naturopaths all over the place and other naturopaths I speak to are relatively busy so I think that's a good sign.
The best part of my job is making people feel better and they are so grateful for my help. Also, seeing someone lose 30 kilograms of body fat and watching their whole outlook on life adjust is very rewarding.
When I'm dealing with chronic patients and terminally ill patients, it's really tough because I'm doing my best to support them and their wellbeing while they're going through cancer treatment or something like that. Sometimes I wish I could do more, it's really hard when you feel like you don't have a magic wand for those conditions.
I have some great tips; I call it my winter insurance checklist! From a dietary point of view, I always recommend people to eat immune-boosting nutrients which are found in vitamin C-rich foods like capsicum, chilli, kiwi fruit, blackcurrants, oranges and broccoli.
Zinc is also really important, so eat pumpkin seeds, oysters and shellfish. It is also important to generally follow a healthy diet with lots of wholegrain and adequate protein and drink plenty of water during the day.
If you have a cold, I recommend that you have manuka honey and lemon drinks, ginger and homemade chicken soup (which reduces phlegm). Also, cut out or reduce your sugar, tea and coffee intake, as well as white flour products and alcohol if it's in excess. Then I would generally recommend taking vitamin C, perhaps 2000 milligrams a day or more, and taking some zinc. If people are very prone to chesty coughs and bronchial type conditions, then I also recommend they take cod liver oil and, my favourite herb, echinacea. I get all my patients to take echinacea throughout the winter months and the minute they start to feel unwell to triple the dose over 24 to 48 hours. They're amazed at how it can stop the symptoms of a cold in its tracks.
I also offer lots of common sense tips such as washing your hands regularly because the most common way a cold virus spreads is through fingertips. Also people should make sure they rest appropriately and wrap up and keep warm, so if you're going outside, wear a scarf to cover the thymus gland which is the master immune gland and sits behind the sternum/chest bone.
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